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MakeBox – Bugs in a Box

It’s been all about the creepy crawlies with MakeBox this month with their ‘Bugs in a Box’ paper craft kit (https://www.makebox.co/shop/product/3142494719). The kit was a collaboration with Sarah Louise Matthews, a paper engineer and paper cut designer (http://sarahlouisematthews.com/). As well as cutting there was also instructions for folding techniques to create marvellous 3D insects.

Included in the box was:

  • Selection of coloured paper and card
  • Scalpels
  • Cutting mat
  • Pencil
  • Metal ruler
  • Glue
  • Envelope
  • Paper templates

The first project was to create a bug display made up of a moth, a patterned beetle and a winged beetle. Although the moth was flat, it was still a complicated piece with a lot of tiny pieces to glue on. Both the beetles had 3D elements that really brought them to life. 

There was a piece of card to mount them on when they were finished, however a frame was not included in the kit. I happened to have a box frame which was square so I put my backing paper in and glued the bugs on inside the frame to make sure I got the positioning right, as they are positioned for a portrait style frame in the photographs in the instruction booklet. I definitely think getting a frame is a good idea as it gives them a really polished finish and means you can display you work, rather than just leaving it to gather dust in a drawer!

The second project was a pop-up bee card. I really enjoyed this project because I’ve always wanted to have a go at making a card in this style. The bee itself was very delicate and I was worried the whole time that I would make a mistake and cut through a part I wasn’t meant to, but there was enough card for a second attempt if I had gone wrong. Luckily I managed to only cut where I was supposed to. I think the bee would have been lovely as it was, but there were additional wings to cut out and stick on, giving it even more of a 3D feel. I just need to decide what to put on the front of the card now so I can send it to someone!

I thought this whole box was very well curated. All the tools were good quality and there was plenty of spare paper if you made a mistake or wanted to make extras. I found that I mainly skim read the instructions and instead followed the photographs for each step as they clearly showed how to construct the bugs. 

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Craft Box Club – Paper Quilled Jewellery

The theme for the August Craft Box Club (https://craftboxclub.co.uk/) was paper quilled jewellery. The art of quilling involves rolling strips of coloured paper and glueing them together to create decorative images or patterns. I always thought it looked delicate and difficult to achieve, but I was keen to have a go as it’s a very popular craft that I have seen a lot of examples of. It’s also a great craft to do at home as the materials are cheap and easy to get hold of and it doesn’t make too much mess! 

Included in the box was:

  • Coloured paper strips
  • Quilling needle
  • Quilling template
  • Glue
  • Earring hooks x2
  • Necklace clasp
  • Wire
  • Cocktail sticks

And of course the link to the video tutorial was also included. This month there were two separate videos one for the earrings and one for the necklace. I thought that the process was going to be quite fiddly and frustrating, but I actually found it quite relaxing. The quilling needle was easy to use and the template with its cutout holes meant that I wasn’t struggling to regulate the size of my coils. It was also worked on a much larger scale than I thought it would be. I had imagined trying to wrangle tiny little coils of paper, but the holes in the template were quite big and I found it really manageable.

The secondary part of the project was wire wrapping. I am quite familiar with this technique already, but I thought that the video showed each step clearly and although I used my tools it would have been easy to do by hand. In fact I was surprised at how soft and malleable the wire was. I’m not sure what kind of wire it was but it was easily cut with scissors.

The only part of the kit I had a slight issue with was the glue. As Craft Box Club aim to be plastic free the glue is provided in a tin, however both times I have received glue from them it has been brown and the tin stained around the edge as though rusty. I can only imagine that it is a reaction between the metal and the glue. It didn’t have any effect on the glue’s sticking power and I used it just fine, but I don’t think it would have been suitable for a project that was using the glue as a varnish. Honestly, I can only praise Adam (the founder of the company) for his efforts to be as plastic free as possible and I don’t have any solutions to offer for this problem because I am sure he has done extensive research on the matter, so I can’t really complain about it too much.

The finished earrings and necklace are quite large, statement pieces and I love how colourful they are! The paper strips came in a great range of colours so you could make your jewellery in any combination you liked. I have tons of strips left as well, so I can practice my technique and make some more jewellery. I might even have a go at creating a picture as well, but I think I may have to watch some more video tutorials online to learn how to achieve different effects before I attempt that.

This project was so quick to do! It took me a couple of hours to complete and was a really nice way to spend an afternoon. I enjoyed the lack of mess as well as it meant that instead of sitting down in my draughty shed I could sit up at the dining table and quill to my heart‘s content…plus there wasn’t too much clearing up to do!

Also included in the package was a mini kit to make a face mask. I haven’t had a chance to complete this one yet, but I watched the video and it looks like a really easy method to make a reusable mask, so I’ll have to have a go at that soon as I currently only have disposable ones and I feel guilty about creating waste every time I wear one.

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Craftiosity – Paper Flower Bouquet

The theme for the July Craftiosity box (https://craftiosity.co.uk/) was a paper flower bouquet. I have to say that I wasn’t very excited about this project as I have made paper flowers quite recently, however once I opened the box I found that rather than tissue paper these flowers were made with card, so although the process was very similar it was nice to work with a different material to produce a different effect in the end product.

Included in the box was:

  • Sheets of coloured A5 paper
  • Paper templates
  • Wire stems
  • Stamens
  • Florist tape
  • Glue stick
  • Vase

I really liked the addition of the vase in the kit as I often wonder how to display my craft projects and this provides the perfect solution!

There were four types of flowers to make: eucalyptus, anemone, craspedia, and tulip. All of the flowers followed the same basic process of cutting out the leaves and petals using the template, wrapping the stem with florist tape and then using the tape to attach the various components of each flower, with some help from the glue. Of course each flower had slightly different methods within that process to achieve the right effect. 

I had no trouble at all with the first three flowers, however I really struggled with the tulips. To start with the instructions said to make two flowers out of the white glitter paper but I just couldn’t find a way to fit all the petal templates onto one sheet of paper in order to cut out the correct amount of petals for each flower. In the end I just cut out enough for one and then cut the second set from some of the pale pink left over from the anemones. In the end I might as well not have bothered because I had to abandon the making of the tulips. I don’t often leave craft projects unfinished as I like to see things through to the end once I’ve started them, but I just could not get the petals to sit correctly, to meet at the top or glue together. I don’t know if it’s just the hot weather we’ve been having but I found the whole thing extremely frustrating and spent so much time manoeuvring the petals to try and get them to behave that they started to rip at the base where they were attached to the stem, so in the end I thought it would be best to leave them. After all, crafting is supposed to be good for your mental health and this was just making me cross! I have saved all the bits so hopefully I will be able to come back to them at a later date when I’m feeling a bit more patient, and the weather is cooler!

One thing I did like about this project was the way that the flowers were put together. The flowers and leaves either had small holes cut into them to slot straight onto the stem or they were held in place with the florist tape, so there was minimal waiting for glue to dry. I particularly liked the craspedias which, although fiddly, were certainly satisfying to put together, creating that little ball of yellow from strips of paper.

Overall I enjoyed this project and am really pleased with my little vase of flowers sitting on the dining table, which I don’t have to remember to water!

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Spring Flowers Masterclass MakeBox

I’ve just completed the MakeBox for May; a Spring flower masterclass. The instruction booklet for this month’s box takes you through the steps for how to create five different kinds of flowers using crepe paper and wire. The results are absolutely gorgeous and much bigger than I thought they were going to be! I think the flowers look really realistic, and although delicate are much sturdier than I would have thought too.

Included in the box was:

• Italian crepe paper in cream, yellow, pale pink, hot pink, pale purple and green
• Wire
• Florist’s tape
• PVA glue
• Wire wreath base
• Velvet ribbon
• Paper templates

The instructions started with how to make pollen using the yellow tissue paper and then went on with a step by step guide on how to make anemones, camellias, daffodils, tulips and peonies. The basics were the same for each flower but obviously varied depending on their petal shape, leaf type and whether or not they had pollen. The Italian crepe paper was excellent quality and was really nice to work with. It doesn’t rip easily and holds its shape well. And my new best friend is florist’s tape! It is so satisfying to work with and hides all manner of sins, but between that and the PVA glue be prepared for very sticky fingers!

Once the flowers are all made there are lots of suggestions at the back of the booklet for what you can do with them. I turned some of mine into a wreath using the wire base and velvet ribbon included in the kit, but there were plenty of other ideas including a flower crown, napkin ring, gift wrap, or just styling them in a vase or bouquet.

As usual this project was lovely. It was something different that I haven’t tried before, which is something MakeBox are great at delivering. The supplies were all of excellent quality and the end result is gorgeous. Hannah is obviously very passionate about flowers and this craft is clearly one of her favourites as you can tell from the intro at the start of the booklet. This was not a quick craft that could be done in a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. I have had this out on the dining table all week and have been coming back to it whenever I have a moment to cut out more petals or stick wire to leaves. Having tried to rush a few bits I can also say that its best to leave the glue to dry if you can as it’ll only make the following steps harder if it’s still a bit wet.

Unfortunately the instructions were once again a bit of a let down. To start with, an email was sent out to everyone who received the kit to say that the tulip instructions had been printed in the wrong order and a link to download the correct ones was provided. I wasn’t ready to make the kit when I received the email so I didn’t download them immediately, but when I tried to get them to make this kit last week the link had expired, less than a month after they were sent. The main problem was that the pictures were out of order and did not match up to the numbered instructions, but as this was the fourth flower in the booklet I could match them up in the logical order as I’d made three types of flower already.

This was not the only problem I found with the instructions. Also in the tulip section it says to cut a piece of wire 5cm by 9cm. This didn’t make sense to me. A piece of wire can only be one length surely? In the end I cut it to 9cm and it all worked out fine, but I’m still unclear as to what was intended by the instruction. The other part that had me confused was in the peony section. It said to cut 6 x 5 sets of petals, a total of thirty petals, however the instructions then went on to say cut six lengths of wire and glue six petals to each piece of wire. This means you would need a total of thirty-six petals. You could use five petals per wire, but I chose to cut six extra petals instead to give the flower more volume. In the instructions for each flower type it said how many flowers you had the materials to make. All of them were to make three flowers, except the peony, which was two. I made the suggested amount for each one but found that when I got to the end I didn’t have enough wire left for the final peony.

It’s these kind of confusing instructions, oversights and miscalculations which I find very frustrating, especially as the overall craft and final products are always lovely and worth the effort in the end. I had debated cancelling my subscription but I know I would regret it and feel I was missing out when I saw the new project each month, but I do hope that MakeBox think about proofreading the instructions and testing the kits before sending them out in the future as this is not the first time that instructions have had mistakes or been omitted, or not quite enough materials have been included.

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Love Paper MakeBox

The craft for the February MakeBox is paper cutting and the theme is love (well, it is nearly Valentine’s Day!). The lady who creates the boxes each month is Hannah Read-Baldrey and paper-cutting is her signature craft. She has four books illustrated in this style and was originally inspired by the artists Rob Ryan and Helen Musselwhite. You can really tell that she poured a lot of love, passion and enthusiasm into this box.

Included in the box was:

  • Cutting mat
  • Scalpel handle and blades
  • Selection of card
  • Two blank notecards
  • Two envelopes
  • Glue stick
  • Pencil
  • Sticky foam pads
  • Box frame
  • Practice sheet
  • Paper templates

I started off by reading through the instruction book cover to cover. I haven’t done any intricate paper cutting with a scalpel before, only large basic shapes, so I wanted to make sure I was doing it correctly. The nice thing about this box is that there’s not really a set project. Hannah encourages you to just get stuck in using the templates provided and there are plenty of suggestions for arranging your cut outs, but you by no means have to stick to what is pictured and there are some handy tips for sketching your own designs.

I didn’t do all of the designs, although there was enough card included, mainly because my finger and thumb started to hurt! I might do some more though if I need a card for someone or want to create a nice handmade gift. I would be up for trying out my own designs too.

Once I had read all the tips I began by completing the practice sheet. It was good to get a feel for how the scalpel cut and especially practicing curves. Hannah suggested breaking them down to a section at a time, which definitely gets a much cleaner result than trying to do the whole curve in one motion.

I decided to use the pencil rub method to transfer the designs on to my card. I used the pencil to draw around the template and then placed this face side down on my card. I then drew around the design again on the back to transfer the pencil marks onto the card, finally filling in any gaps directly on the card once I had removed the paper template. Once the design is cutout the reverse side of the card which does not have the pencil marks on becomes the front. It’s important to ensure that your design is the correct way round when using this method. It slightly backfired on me when I was cutting out the final and most intricate design. I used the pencil rub method as I had done with the rest of my cuts without realising that the template provided was already in reverse which meant that when I transferred it onto the card it became the right way round, meaning the side I was cutting from was the front. This meant that my final piece ended up looking a little messier than I’d have liked and I had to go over it really carefully with an eraser to get rid of the pencil marks! I didn’t realise this until I was halfway through cutting it out though so I just decided to stick with it, rather than start again.

The first design I did was the love birds in blue, which I layered over a pink heart. I used the glue to stick the heart and one of the birds to the notecard and then I used some of the sticky foam pads for the other bird to create a 3D effect.

I’m a bit of a sucker for the sticky foam pads and making things 3D! I always used to love it when they came out for crafts at school or youth club (what a geek!), so I decided to make all of my pieces 3D! The second design I did was two roses, one in red and the other in pink. I stuck the pink rose down to the notecard and then made the red rose 3D over the top.

Lastly I did the love heart hands (which was the design that ended up being the wrong way round). I cut out a piece of card to fit inside the box frame and attached the cut out to it with the sticky foam pads before mounting it in the frame. I have to say it does look pretty good! 

This was a really relaxed box and you could tell that Hannah is passionate about this craft. The instruction book was so detailed and it was obvious that a lot of love had gone in to this kit. It is a nice, peaceful craft to do whilst listening to some music or your favourite podcast. 

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Winter Craftpod 2019

I really enjoyed the winter Craftpod! There were two really great projects included, both something a bit different from previous boxes. There was a Scandinavian style cross stitch hoop designed by Lucy from the blog ‘Attic 24’, and a paper craft project designed by Clover Robin.

Included in the box was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread
  • Needle
  • Aida fabric
  • Range of coloured paper
  • Card
  • Coloured pencils
  • Inspirational postcard
  • Spiced red fruits teabag

I did the paper craft project first. The instructions were really clear and took you through the order in which to build up the picture. I especially enjoyed creating the pine cones. I really liked the use of the different colours and textures of the paper to create the effect. I also liked using the coloured pencils to embellish the picture at the end by adding some snowy branches onto the trees, the wreaths on the doors of the huts and the little hand drawn trees.

There was a suggestion to scan your finished collage and use it to print your own Christmas cards. I was a bit late for that this year, but that design may well be making an appearance next year!

The cross stitch project was nice to do over a few evenings in front of the TV. There was a great tip to find the centre point and then complete a quarter of the design at a time. I actually found this really helpful to break it down like that and it actually didn’t take me long to complete it at all. 

I’ve put both the finished projects on my mantel piece alongside my advent calendar and they have made me feel really Christmassy! I haven’t been feeling as festive as usual this year, but having completed quite a few Christmas projects over the last few weeks I am now feeling more than ready for the big day! Only two more sleeps to go…